Doha, December 19
Lionel Messi ended his long wait for the World Cup title in one of the most memorable finals in history. Messi was at his most inspirational, scoring two goals to take his total for the tournament to seven and delivering his country’s third World Cup triumph as Argentina beat France 4-2 on penalties after a 3-3 draw through extra time.
Obviously, I wanted to complete my career with this, I can’t ask for more. Finishing my career this way is impressive. After this, what else? I have a Copa America, a World Cup. Almost at the very end. I love soccer, what I do. I enjoy being part of the national team, the group. I want to enjoy a couple of more matches being a world champion.
Argentina ended Europe’s hegemony at the World Cup by bringing the golden trophy back to South America after 20 years. The previous South American victory had come in 2002, when Brazil beat Germany in the final.
But Kylian Mbappe made him work hard for the trophy he has long craved by scoring a hat-trick, including two goals in 97 seconds late in regulation to pull France back from 0-2 down.
The France forward evened the score again after Messi put Argentina back in front in extra time. Ultimately, it was Messi’s World Cup to raise. After fulfilling his life’s ambition, what’s next for him?
With Messi in the team, Argentina are always going to be among the favourites. But at the age of 35 and in the final stages of his storied career, the forward looked less equipped than in previous years to lead his country to success.
And when Saudia Arabia produced one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s 92-year history by beating Argentina 2-1 in the group stage, the potential for an embarrassing early exit looked a real possibility. Messi inspired the team to recover from that setback and produced one of the all-time great tournament performances with seven goals and three assists.
While Argentina’s expectations might not have been at their highest for this year’s World Cup, Messi finally realised the expectations placed on him for the majority of his career by winning the sport’s biggest prize.
Messi’s jersey will
be ready: Scaloni
Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni said that he will keep Messi’s jersey ready in case the talismanic captain wishes to play at the next World Cup. After finally fulfilling a lifelong dream, many thought the 35-year-old Messi may never again come out wearing the famed blue and white stripes of Argentina. But within a few moments, Messi declared that he does not plan to retire from international duty in near future.
“I think we should keep the No. 10 jersey prepared for the next World Cup if he (Messi) feels like playing,” Scaloni said. — Agencies
WC’s high-five moments
SOUTH KOREA’S NERVOUS WAIT
When Hwang Hee-chan scored a stoppage-time winner for South Korea in their final Group H game the hard part was just starting. The Korean players then had to spend almost 10 minutes in a tight huddle peering at phones, hoping Uruguay would not score another goal against Ghana.
MESSI’S MOMENT OF MAGIC
The way Messi held off Croatia’s Josko Gvardiol, then bamboozled him with an electrifying twist to set up the third goal in a 3-0 semifinal win encapsulated the 35-year-old’s genius.
FIRST FEMALE REFEREE AT A MEN’S WORLD CUP
Frenchwoman Stephanie Frappart was handed control of Germany’s clash against Costa Rica, becoming the first female referee to officiate at a men’s World Cup. She produced a calm and assured display.
RONALDO EXITS FINAL WORLD CUP IN TEARS
Portugal’s talisman became the first male player to score in five World Cups with a penalty against Ghana. But the 37-year-old was unable to save his side in the quarters and was filmed walking down the tunnel in tears.
SAUDI ARABIA’S SHOCKER
Argentina were cruising in their opening Group C game after Lionel Messi scored a first-half penalty. But the Green Falcons swooped after halftime with Saleh Al-Shehri squeezing in a low shot to equalise and five minutes later Salem Al-Dawsari won it for them.
Today, football continues to tell its story, as always, in an enthralling way. Congratulations Argentina! Certainly Diego is smiling now. PELE, THREE-TIME WORLD CUP WINNER
Fairytale stuff Argentina! Time and time again you (Messi) have redefined greatness. It’s a privilege to watch you. ROGER FEDERER, 20-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION
Many congratulations to Argentina on doing this for Messi! Wonderful comeback from the way they started the campaign. SACHIN TENDULKAR, BATTNG GREAT
He’s the greatest soccer player I’ve ever seen... you say Pele and Maradona but I think that what Messi does with the ball is stupid. TIGER WOODS, 15-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION
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